Using art to communicate about nuclear energy – PopAtomic Ted Talk

Suzy Hobbs Baker is the founder and director of PopAtomic Studios. She is a professional, talented artist and the daughter of a nuclear engineer. She recently gave a TEDx talk titled Art & Nuclear Energy.

In the video you will find out more about how Suzy found herself at a key intersection between liberal arts and technology. She has dedicated her career to exploring better ways to use her art to communicate the incredible benefits that nuclear energy can bring once people have learned more and overcome their long engrained fears.

Like many other nuclear energy advocates, Suzy and I agree that the more that people understand about nuclear energy technology, the more they favor its widespread use to improve living conditions for all people on earth.

Hat tip to Nuclear Street’s article titled PopAtomic TED Talk: Using Art for Nuclear Power Education (Video)

Separate topic – On Sunday, January 21, I spoke with Bob Apthorpe and Cal Abel about building nuclear power plants as flexible heat sources that could supply both industrial process heat and load following electricity generation systems.

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20 Responses to “Using art to communicate about nuclear energy – PopAtomic Ted Talk”

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  1. DV82XL says:

    What a delightful young lady. Her dad must be very proud.

  2. Atomikrabbit says:

    Great job Suzy.

    I hereby award you an honorary Order of the Neutron, normally reserved for Navy Nukes and licensed Senior Reactor Operators.

    • Atomikrabbit says:

      Speaking of which, we are approaching the 80-year anniversary of Chadwick’s discovery of the neutron:
      “Over a ten day period, from February 7 to 17, 1932 James Chadwick conducted a series of experiments that conclusively demonstrated that these unusual emissions were actually neutrons.”

      Since I doubt that Congress will declare February as National Neutron Month, I urge everyone to commemorate it according to their own family traditions. Personally, I will be bringing down the americium and beryllium ornaments from the attic.

      • Daniel says:

        … And I will synchronize all of my Cesium clocks. Would not want to be late when the NRC grants the COL for Vogtle before mid Feb.

  3. John Englert says:

    Good presentation. I hope that when my daughter comes to me with a “is nuke bad?” type of question, that I remember to approach the question the same way that Suzy’s dad did.

  4. Suzy Hobbs Baker says:


    Thank you for sharing this! And thanks everyone for the support! Public speaking is probably my least favorite part of the job, so it means a lot!



  5. Mark says:


    I believe it was James Acord (now sadly dead) who was the first person I ever met who looked at the combination of nuclear (science) and art. He came up against all sorts of problems and the nuclear industry kept its distance as they believed he was ‘dangerous’. He was a bit of a maverick but I met him a number of times at Imperial College London in the 90’s and he become a good friend. Google him some time.

    • Atomikrabbit says:

      Wow, an interesting (“He had his nuclear license number tattooed onto his neck”), but apparently tragic individual (“He committed suicide in Seattle on January 9, 2011 at the age of 66”).

      I’m not too sure about some of the reporting: “One [picture] shows him signing for the receipt of a big wooden case packed with spent uranium fuel rods”. Huh??

      Nevertheless, thanks for bringing him to our attention.

      • Mark says:

        breeder blankets in actual fact 🙂

      • Rod Adams says:


        Apparently a German contact sent him a whole ton of uranium. He was allowed to own it, but not possess it, so he had to find a contractor in the Hanford area who could store it for him.

    • Suzy Hobbs says:


      I am very familiar with Acord’s work! I actually contacted him in early 2009, when I first had the idea for PopAtomic, but never received a response. At a waste management conference a few years ago, several people talked about Acord fondly and shared stories about his unique vision as an artist.

      Last year when I applied to become a member of the American Nuclear Society, they did some research to see if there was precedence for allowing a professional artist to join. As it turns out, Acord was a member for several years, and therefore I was also able to join.

      I only wish I had the opportunity to meet him before his passing. He has been a great inspiration to me.



    • Rod Adams says:

      Mark – you inspired today’s post. I had never heard of James Acord before you made your comment that started a journey of quick discovery. I just love the tools we have at our fingertips these days. I learned more about the man than would have been possible with several trips to a good university library when I was still in school.

  6. Andrew Jaremko says:

    Rod – thanks for posting Suzy’s video. Suzy – well done! I want to find opportunities to ‘talk nuclear’ and my ambition is to be a TEDx speaker some day.

    You say that public speaking is the least favorite part of your job. May I suggest that you find and visit a Toastmaster’s club? I’ve joined Toastmasters and am finding it tremendously helpful for organizing my thoughts as well as for the actual speaking. One caveat – the club mentor I’m working with says that different Toastmasters clubs in an area can vary in quality, so I suggest you shop around a bit to find one that suits you and has a lot of people that can help and guide you. (I didn’t do this – I seem to have lucked out.) Keep up the good work!

    • Suzy Hobbs Baker says:


      I found a toastmaster’s club near me in December on the recommendation of a friend, and will officially join next month after I get through a busy period in my schedule (I’ve been traveling more than usual lately).

      I’m sure it will help me improve on public speaking…of course the value of the TedX talk in my mind is that now when someone wants me to present I can just send them the link instead 😉 Okay, I’m partly kidding.

      I hope you fulfill your goal of doing one of these things yourself, and will share your video when you do! It’s definitely a fun experience!


      • Rick Maltese says:

        Suzy. Very well done.

        You were very effective. I hope you continue making the same talk other places. I remember catching a couple of versions of Robert Hargraves’ talk Aim High and noticed a huge improvement from his first version to another one a year later. I hope you have an opportunity to improve and expand your talk. Besides you had a little buzz in the sound and like other talks I’ve seen by Kirk Sorensen he was able to do better later so keep up the great work.

  7. Michael Pelletier says:

    A cute, smart woman in glasses and cowboy boots? Seriously, who could resist that? 😀

    The public relations fight is probably the most important one for nuclear energy right now, even more important than the fight with Jazcko. If hysterical mobs pursue you with torches and pitchforks, your NRC license doesn’t matter that much.

    • Suzy Hobbs Baker says:

      Thanks Michael, I’m blushing 😉

      But, I do agree that as an industry, nuclear needs to put it’s best faces and voices forward.

      No offense to the guys who have been in the business for decades (like my Dad, and most of my advisors), but the suit and tie can be isolating for many audiences. (Rod is a rare exception who recently spoke at an NRC meeting wearing a full beard and environmentalist t-shirt!)

      Entergy has the right idea with ads that feature young, enthusiastic employees and the “Nuclear Clean Air” indie car driven by Simona deSilvestro.

      Thanks again,


  8. Bill Roidgers says:


    Finally had a chance to watch your video and want to congratulate you. It was a great discussion and you made several key points that need to be repeated over and over again. Even though you may not want to become a public speaker I hope you have opportunities to give that talk many more times.

    The point that I liked the best was your comment about the airport where people wanted to the protect the “natural” environment however there are no physical barriers between the “natural” environment and the “industrial” environment.

    And of course I am always glad to see someone describe the baseload issues now that wind and solar are playing a bigger part in our world’s power generation makeup.


  9. Daniel says:

    The IAEA UN nuclear organization is considering opening an office in Fukushima to advise Japan on addressing the prolonged aftermath of the devastating nuclear accident.

    If they really are pro nuclear and understand the risk at less than 100 msv a year they will set office very close to the plant. There are no reasons not to.

    That would send a signal of leadership.